Weekly Wrap: Survey Says That “Passive” Job Candidates Do Not Exist

Illustration by Dreamstime.

I didn’t focus muchon this survey when it was released earlier this week, but it deserves some attention.

A new study by CareerBuilder and Inavero found that today’s workers have turned into perpetual job seekers, with 74 percent of full-time employees saying that they are actively searching for a new job or are open to a new opportunity.

Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America, pointed to technology as the reason for this kind of relentless job hunting activity.

Passive vs. active candidates

“Digital behavior has blurred the distinction between an active and a passive job candidate,” Rasmussen said, in a press release about the findings. “The majority of workers are regularly exposed to new job opportunities and are willing to consider them. They may not leave their jobs right away, but they’re keeping aware of possibilities and planning for their next career move.”

The CareerBuilder president may be right about that, but I think it is a lot more than technology and our modern digital lifestyle that is fueling this perpetual job search by a large chunk of the workforce.

People are constantly looking for something better because companies have gone out of their way to sever the employment bond between workers and the organization, and helped to disengage workers through their corporate behavior during and after the Great Recession.

Yes, in my mind workers are constantly looking because they don’t have a lot of trust in their employers and the stability of their employment situation. Work is just a job for far too many people these days.

The CareerBuilder 2012 Candidate Behavior Study makes this point as well. As the survey analysis notes, “The ongoing pursuit of other positions is also driven by the perception of the overall work experience, (with) 53 percent of workers (saying) they feel like they just have a job, not a career.*

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Generational differences in job hunting

Here are a few more findings from this survey:

  • Some 35 percent of people begin preparing for their next job within weeks of starting a new one.
  • Another 24 percent say job searching is a regular part of their weekly activities.
  • A whopping 69 percent of workers say searching for new opportunities is part of their “regular routine,” with 24 percent searching as frequently as once a week.
  • Millennials are much more likely to seek greener pastures than seasoned workers, with 79 percent of Millennials reporting that they actively search for or are open to new jobs compared to 67 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • Baby Boomers tend to stay in a position for 11 years on average, while Millennials typically stay for three years.
  • The average job search cycle lasts about six months, and the average candidate started his search nearly 38 weeks ago, with 66 percent of respondents saying they thought about looking for a new job within six months before actively searching.
  • Nearly two thirds of workers use an employee ratings site at some point in the job search (two-thirds of this group also say they used it prior to submitting an application).

The myth of the passive candidate?

The survey conclusions are equally interesting. It says that:

  • “Passive” candidates are not necessarily better than “active” candidates. If anything, they might be less ambitious.
  • Digital behavior has completely changed the way people research everything – including job opportunities.
  • Job searching is much like shopping in terms of the extensive research that takes place prior to making a final decision. The average person uses up to 15 unique resources to research job opportunities, compared with the average shopper, who uses between 10 and 11 resources.
  • Passive candidates do not exist. Nearly every worker is searching for or open to new opportunities at any given point in time – even if he just started a new job.
  • Differences in search behavior changes with age. Those born into the digital age have a “leg up” on the older generation who did not have digital search behavior ingrained early on.
  • Job-hopping early in a career is a direct effect of this new search behavior process.

Wow — “passive candidates do not exist.” That kind of statement will surely get a visible reaction out of my friends in recruiting. I’m sure that the data from this CareerBuilder survey points to that conclusion, but only time will tell if it actually, really rings true.

Why unions get a bad rap

Of course, there’s a lot more than this CareerBuilder survey in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Why unions get a bad name. Why do unions — particularly public worker unions — get such a bad rap? Could it be, in part, because they are seen as defending all sorts of bad behavior by union members? The Philadelphia Daily News reports that a police officer who was fired after punching a woman last month and a video of the incident went viral, is having a benefit thrown in his honor by the Fraternal Order of Police on Oct. 28. “You’re kidding me, right?” City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez said of the benefit. “While I understand that the FOP has to defend one of its own, I am extremely disappointed because this will appear that they are condoning the very visible actions of (former police Lt. Jonathan) Josey, which hurts the image of their good officers,” added Sanchez, who represents the district where the incident occurred.”
  • Should employers take away employee Internet access? Miami Herald workplace columnist and blogger Cindy Krischer Goodman asks the question after hearing of an incident where an HR manager cut off access to an employee that was caught doing online shopping on the job. She disagrees with the decision by the HR manager, and she also makes the case that “if you cut off her Internet access, she will never put in extra effort again. You’ve just completely disengaged her.” It’s a great topic, and Goodman wants to know, what do you think about this?
  • Do long hours equal great results, or just the opposite? The New York Times digs into the debate over whether long hours on the job really point to a lack of employee efficiency. “A measurement system based on hours makes no sense for knowledge workers,” the story notes. “Their contribution should be measured by the value they create through applying their ideas and skills. By applying an industrial-age mind-set to 21st-century professionals, many organizations are undermining incentives for workers to be efficient.”
  • The uncertainty of holiday hiring. It looks like 2012 will be a good season for part-time or temporary holiday workers, but as as a story on NPR points out, “Some of the biggest stores in the country have announced they’re hiring more holiday workers this year than last — stores like Macy’s, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart. But these jobs will be fleeting. And that’s the catch for year-round retail workers who can never find enough work.”
  • Kronos Time Well Spent cartoon. Kronos, the company that probably makes your organization’s time-and-attendance systems, publishes a regular Time Well Spent workplace cartoon by Tom Fishburne. I post them here from time to time in the Weekly Wrap.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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